Portfolio Reports – Portfolio Bubble Charts

This is the third post in a series on portfolio management reports. In the first post, we reviewed introductory portfolio management reports that convey the basic dimensions of the portfolio. In the second report we reviewed treemaps and advanced pareto charts that can help identify outlier projects worthy of more scrutiny. In this post we will look at the most common report for project portfolio management, portfolio bubble charts.


The risk-value portfolio bubble chart represents a portfolio view of all projects and puts projects into one of four quadrants based on value and risk; this is important for identifying projects that drive overall greater value to the organization compared to other projects as well as highlight projects that should likely be screened out.


One of the key benefits to a portfolio bubble chart is to quickly show the balance of the current portfolio.  Using portfolio bubble charts with the portfolio governance team can focus conversations to help better manage the portfolio. When reviewing projects that are in the higher-value/ lower-risk quadrant, the portfolio governance team should ask the question, “how can we get more of these types of projects in the portfolio?” Likewise with the lower-value/higher-risk projects, the portfolio governance team should ask how to avoid those types of projects. These discussions will greatly enhance the management of the portfolio and enable the portfolio governance team to “manage the tail” and ensure that only the best projects are selected and executed.


There are four primary data elements needed to build the risk-value bubble chart: value scores for each project, risk scores for each project, categorical data, and the project cost or financial benefits of the project (commonly used for bubble size). In an older post, I wrote in detail on how to build such a chart in Excel and the notion of normalizing the data. A prioritization scoring mechanism is typically required to build the best portfolio bubble charts.

Portfolio Bubble Chart Example
Portfolio Bubble Chart Example

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Portfolio Reports – Part 2

In the previous post, we reviewed very basic portfolio reports that can easily generated with initial data. In this post we will continue examining portfolio reports with an emphasis on intermediate level reporting.

Pareto Chart (Financial Contribution)

All companies should have a breakdown of project cost, but not all companies capture project value. For those that do, a Pareto chart ordered by financial contribution (e.g. NPV) provides aggregate portfolio visibility of the most valuable projects. We also find that the 80/20 rule often applies (20% of the projects deliver 80% of the portfolio’s value). This type of Pareto chart provides great visibility of the entire portfolio and highlights how a subset of projects support overall financial contribution.   It is a great report for focused discussions regarding how to manage the long tail of low value projects. It is critically important for the portfolio governance team to recognize this tail of projects and how to deal with it. The minimum required data to generate this report is a financial metric (cost, dollar savings, NPV, etc.) and the Project Name or ID.

Advanced Pareto Chart

We can take this Pareto chart a step further and overlay additional data points to make it an even more powerful report. In the example below, we have overlaid the cumulative R&D labor (as a percentage of R&D labor across all projects). By adding in this additional resource data, we can clearly see that we can still achieve 80% of the total portfolio value with only 65% of the anticipated R&D spend. In the absence of portfolio optimization, this insight can be valuable when managing bottleneck resources as it points to additional projects that can be accomplished without the use of critical resources. You can substitute R&D for any other role in your company that is a bottleneck to many projects.

These enhanced portfolio reports provide great visibility of the entire portfolio and how a subset of projects support overall financial contribution.   It is an even better tool for focused discussions regarding how to manage “the tail”. All you need is the following data: Financial metric (cost, dollar savings, NPV, etc.), project name/ID, Resource data or other categorical measurement.

Advanced Portfolio Pareto Chart
Advanced Portfolio Pareto Chart


Treemaps offer a graphical alternative to traditional risk-value bubble charts and provides a quick glance of the entire portfolio with categorical information included (e.g. box size = cost, color = project value, grouping by category). The basic information may be similar to traditional bubble charts, but the coloring and sizing can raise awareness of different problems or challenges in the portfolio and is a great report for identifying misaligned projects. I recommend using treemaps in addition to bubble charts (which we will discuss in the next post).  Treemaps are common in data visualization software such as Tableau and requires data such as: financial measure (cost, revenue, savings), risk measures (optional), project value (e.g. a value score). Instead of coloring based on value score, you could color based on alignment to particular strategic objectives or by business unit. The example below shows a basic cost/value treemap.

Portfolio Treemap Example
Portfolio Treemap Example


In this post, we have seen two great intermediate portfolio reports that will enhance governance discussions. These reports help move senior leaders away from a singular project view to an aggregate project view. Even though we adjust individual portfolio components (aka projects), our view is to identify an optimal portfolio.

Are you using advanced Pareto charts and treemaps in your portfolio meetings? Share a comment below.


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Portfolio Reporting Part 1

In a previous post, I wrote that from a very pragmatic point of view, getting the right data to leadership at the right time is at the heart of good project portfolio management. If the right data is not available for decision makers to use, the issue will be mediocre results at best. In actuality, the right data needs to be used to create the right reports to support strategic decision making. Hence, strong portfolio reporting must be a core capability for any organization utilizing portfolio processes. If you are not creating the right reports, then how well is your portfolio process actually working?

In the next few blog posts we will look at various types of portfolio reports, starting with basic reporting and concluding with advanced reporting.

In this first example, we will look at basic bar charts, which can represent subsets of projects in multiple dimensions:

  1. By Strategic Goal
  2. By Project Type
  3. By Sponsoring Business Group
  4. By Sponsor

The intention is to provide a quick visual overview of a certain category of projects (e.g. that align to a strategic goal or which belong to a certain sponsor). These charts provide a quick glance of projects sliced in different ways. There may not be much insight, but simple charts like this could highlight possible gaps in the portfolio and are useful for focused discussions around certain types of projects.

Basic Portfolio Report 1

The next set of basic portfolio reports focus on portfolio metrics. Pie charts of portfolio data are very easy to pull together and can be viewed categorically in different ways:

  • Projects By Category (Count, %)
  • Projects by Category (Cost)
  • Projects by Category (Value generated)

Some categorical examples include: health status, project type, strategic goal, sponsor, organization

Pie charts are really just a snapshot in time, but when data is collected over time, we can also graphically depict trends, which can uncover portfolio gaps. Such gaps highlight areas that need more governance attention and help facilitate focused discussions around managing the portfolio.

Organizations need to collect the following data in order to create these reports: categorical data, financial metric (cost, value, etc.), resource hours, etc.

Basic Portfolio Report 2

In the next post we will look at more intermediate portfolio reports.  In the meantime, what are your favorite portfolio reports? What has worked well for your organization?

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